It’s not as though international travel is the exclusive domain of youth, and of course, nor should it be. There’s no right or wrong age when it comes to getting on a plane and experiencing the world. And yet, there is something potentially life-changing about seeing what the world has to offer when you’re young(ish) and independent. There can perhaps be a greater sense of achievement, of being able to stretch your travel dollar a bit further by those compromises that you might become less willing to accept once you reach a certain age. It’s not as though parenthood, a high-powered career, or a mortgage can exclude you from international travel, but there is arguably a different type of freedom that comes with travelling when you don’t need to get home in a rush to resume these responsibilities (or to take these responsibilities with you in the case of parenthood). There are many great reasons to see the world when you’re still young.
The Stamina of Youth
There will be a turning point in life when you think back to when you could go out drinking on a weeknight, sleep for four hours, and then go into work feeling fresh as a daisy. Those days won’t last (sorry). Travel is physically, intellectually, and emotionally demanding in the best possible way, and you can perhaps get a more all-inclusive travel experience when you have stamina, and this stamina is often something that comes with youth. It’s not to say that your energy levels will evaporate at some point in your 30s, and yet when you’re on an international trip when you’re younger, you can stay out all night, take a fairly short “disco nap” and then go out to see the sights. It’s maybe not something you would be inclined to do when you get a bit older… not without having to spend the day in your hotel room with the curtains closed.
You will also be more inclined to make certain compromises when you’re younger, and these can end up saving you money. Sure, it would be nice to stay in a hotel or rent out an apartment, but when you’re younger, you probably won’t mind sharing a hostel room with 10 strangers or sleeping on the couch of a friend of your cousin’s next door neighbour who has an apartment in Hamburg. These options, though fun, can become infinitely less appealing when you get a bit older.
There’s also a degree of self-confidence can comes from conquering the world. You learn to safely navigate yourself around a foreign country where you might not know anyone, or even all that much about where you are beyond what you’ve read in the guidebooks. It’s not exactly a tangible skill, but this type of confidence building will serve you well in life.
Part of that confidence comes from immersing yourself in a foreign culture. It gives an interesting perspective to find yourself in the position of being an outsider. You might not know the language or culture, but you will try your best, and this can lead to greater cultural sensitivity – another trait that will serve you well in life. It can feel problematic to try to immerse yourself in a foreign culture. How do you know you’re not doing what every visitor to Stockholm has done before you? It helps to get a little off the beaten track, which is a stereotype and yet true. Do more than what the guidebook suggests in Madrid. Visit the neighbourhoods of Vienna that are away from the heart of the city. Look for tours that showcase the real Cuba. Sure, it depends how much time you have, and yet it’s not that difficult to gain a basic cultural insight to your destination.
Extend Your Education
Even if you’re not there for formal education or a cultural exchange, you will extend your education in a way that feels beneficial, and indeed, kind of cool (especially when you’re younger). You will pick up a few useful phrases in the local language, as well as learning some cultural traditions that can make you feel worldly.
A Question of Life Choices
It could be that travelling when young will make you question your intended life trajectory, with the sort of freedom that is more associated with youth. Instead of going home and starting that new job, you might want to apply for a visa and stay in Berlin for a year or two. You might realise that your plans for when you return home are ultimately not what you want. It’s said that travel broadens the mind, and it can also make you ask the big questions that influence the rest of your life. This can be a daunting prospect, but it’s a great thing.